The signs are quite common around the centre of Beijing. Panda Beer has made a name for itself, not least for the cute pandas that can be seen gracing drinking establishments, especially in the touristy areas.
But until recently I had no idea where to find the epicentre of this mini-empire. Every time I went to what looked like their taproom, it was closed. So you can imagine my delight when I finally discovered the correct location of my third micro-brewery in Beijing – not at 67 Beixinqiao, as widely quoted on the web, but at 14 DongSiBeiDaJie, within spitting distance to the south of Beixinqiao station on Line 5. It’s a large place compared with the other microbreweries I have so far been to in Beijing; and it’s clear that a great deal of investment has been put into the place to give it a gleaming concrete and steel look.
The taproom is located on two floors, with the ground floor taken up in part by the actual brewery itself. It makes a good backdrop, but the upstairs is roomier, and you can peer over the balcony to see the brewing if you still have a mind to…
It is clear that the marketers have had a field day with this brand. Bottles featuring panda eyes and panda bottoms add a requisite smile factor…
And the bilingual pamphlet to be found at the door has welcoming text, albeit that you’d think that someone might have checked the English before sending the pamphlet to print...
Foreigners are visible by their almost total absence here. (For me that’s a plus!) And the beers on offer seem to have been tweaked for Chinese tastes.
Google-Translate seems not to have been able to cope with the nitty-gritty stuff about the beers themselves, or perhaps that was deliberate?
Reading through some of the reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor, it is perhaps understandable why the clientele appears almost 100% Chinese. “Kuding Pale is not a bad beer. Have found plenty of other better places for Craft Beer. Disappointing.”
“Very disappointed with this brew. The beer was extremely tasteless. The aroma was very bland and there was more than average amount of foam and lace. The beer was somewhat pungent and the taste stayed in my mouth long after I swallowed it down. Not a very good beer.”
“Orange to amber pour, high carbonation and big bubbly head. Low retention, sticky lace.”
“Smells of bubble-gum, banana, flowers, acidic apple, so nice fruity hops, with some hints of caramel.”
“Carbonation remains big, it's also a bit too light, almost watery.”
My friends and I all decide to try the Panda cider, having been sampling other beers earlier in the evening…
But the reality is that the cider is disappointing. Sweet and sickly, with little apple taste and certainly nothing to write home about, though it appears to find favour with some of the Chinese.
It’s a shame really, but given the existence of other hugely better craft breweries in Beijing, I doubt I will be making a fast return here, by subway, bus or motor-scooter!